Augusta Township political picture contentious heading into November election
Will the general election bring an end to the constant in-fighting on the Augusta Township Board of Trustees?
None of the warring political groups came out of the primaries with a clear advantage and most involved believe the township will still have a split board with members composed of political rivals after the general election.
Republican Trustee Brian Shelby also is running with Republican Trustee candidate Dennis Chie, making up a third alignment involved in the election.
Currently, a voting block is made up of Trustee Shelby, Trustee Bill Tobler, Clerk Kathy Giszczak and Treasurer Susan Burek. Shelby doesn’t always vote with that block, however, and is a Republican, not a Democrat.
The remainder of the voting block was joined on an election slate by Democratic Trustee candidates Ira Todd, Cath Howard and Joseph Keith.
The opposition voting block for the last 18 months has included Trustee Mike King, Trustee Dan Lula and Supervisor Pete Hafler. They did not run on a slate in the primaries, but many of their old political allies and friends also ran and unofficially supported one another.
Supervisor’s race: Pete Hafler vs. Brian Shelby
In the primary, trustees Shelby and Tobler ran for the Republican and Democratic supervisor’s ticket, respectively.
Tobler has repeatedly clashed with incumbent Hafler, and was defeated by Hafler 310-269 in the Democratic primary.
Hafler said he believes residents see that Giszczak and Tobler are causing problems on the board and have tried to strip him of his power as supervisor. He said residents' vote showed they understand that.
"I think people know me," he said. "I think people trust me and I've been up front with them. People on the board try to strip me of my power. I think they're tired of that kind of action. I don’t think they like it at all."
Tobler said he heard during his campaigning that residents were sick of the 4-3 split board. But he said there will likely be 4-3 split board again and residents “missed an opportunity” to elect a whole team.
Tobler, who said he is looking forward to relaxing after 33 years on the board, charged that Hafler’s political allies distorted the truth or outright lied about issues during the campaign.
“I’m very concerned the direction our opponents will take the township,” he said. “After four more years there might not be a township to save.”
Shelby defeated former supervisor and trustee Kathy Jackson in the Republican primary. Jackson was a political ally of King, Lula and Hafler, and was most recently defeated by Susan Burek for an open trustee’s position on the board in 2010.
She was defeated by Hafler for the supervisor’s office in 2008, but was subsequently appointed to the board by Hafler and his allies when a trustee seat opened up mid-term following a resignation.
Shelby, who will face Hafler in the general election, said many people in the township were upset with Hafler because he campaigned on being an alternative to Jackson, then turned around and appointed her to the board after defeating her.
“He made a lot of people mad,” Shelby said. “He slammed her left and right to get her out of office, then put her back on the board. A lot of people feel like he stabbed them in the back. Where’s the integrity? Where’s the honesty? It’s a dirty deal anyway I look at it.”
Shelby acknowledged Augusta has remained largely Democratic in recent years, but said many conservative voters remain in the township and people are frustrated with the constant infighting on the board.
Shelby pinned those issues on Hafler.
“I want to stop the fighting; there’s no excuse,” he said. “If the supervisor doesn’t allow it then it doesn’t happen. He’s the one that controls the meeting.
“This is a nice little community but it needs its respect and dignity brought back. The last 20-plus years it has been a joke and it’s time to change that.”
Hafler said Giszczak and Tobler are responsible for the infighting and said he believes the board will improve once they and Shelby - who he called a puppet of Giszczak and Tobler - are off the board.
"I think it will be a better board," he said. "Some of the infighting will be gone. It will be more open and there will be honest communication, and that's what people are looking for."
See the Voter Guide for more information on the supervisor candidates.
Clerk’s race: Kathy Giszczak vs. Kathleen MacDonald
Giszczak defeated Ira Bievelec, another Hafler ally, to move onto the general election. She won handily, 343-304, despite facing felony eavesdropping charges. Those charges were dismissed last week.
Giszczak said voters approved of her service to the community and “proven customer service track record.”
“I just tell voters what I am, my education, background, experience, and what I plan to do in the future,” she said.
Kathleen MacDonald defeated Linda Adams in the clerk’s office Republican primary.
That pits MacDonald against Giszczak. Giszczak has a restraining order against Kathleen MacDonald’s husband, Jim MacDonald. In one incident, Jim MacDonald covered himself in fish fertilizer and banged on a filing cabinet in Giszczak’s office. He has accused Giszczak of violating the Freedom of Information Act and the two have faced each other in court.
Giszczak said Kathleen MacDonald contributes to the problem.
“I believe Kathleen MacDonald encourages (Jim MacDonald’s) angry behavior toward me,” Giszczak said. “Do we want someone like that, who takes things to a personal level, serving our community?”
MacDonald said problems between her husband and Giszczak have no affect on her campaign or the election.
“It was between him and her, not her and me,” MacDonald said. “We each have our own identities and we don’t like to have them merged politically.”
MacDonald said she was successful in the primary because she met individually with voters and explained her strengths, and she said she plans to continue to do so as she looks toward the general election.
See more information on the clerk candidates in the Voter Guide.
Treasurer's race: Lynda Dew vs. Nevel Overton Slack
The Democratic treasurer's primary was decided by three votes and faced a recount. Lynda Dew, who is aligned with Hafler, defeated incumbent Burek 315-312.
Nevel Overton Slack was the lone candidate in the Republican primary.
Read more about the treasurer candidates in the Voter Guide.
Trustee’s race: four seats
Democratic trustee candidates Keefe, Todd and Howard, who are aligned with Giszczak and Tobler, won in the primaries. Judy Thornton, who aligns herself with Hafler, also won in the Democratic trustee primary.
Incumbent Trustee Mike King won in the Republican primary, while incumbent Dan Lula lost. Both were aligned with Hafler.
Newcomer Republicans Dennis Chie, Dwight Bennett and Douglas Newsome also won in their primaries.
Like other candidates, King said the board is damaged by the warring alliances and said he has been independent in his voting.
“I think I’ve been fair on the board, mindful of the residents, and what they find to be important,” he said.
Read more about the trustee candidates in the Voter Guide.